Phoenix — January has been declared as Human Trafficking Prevention Month by Governor Doug Ducey. The Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) has taken several steps to prevent human trafficking here in Arizona, especially the trafficking of children.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), 465,676 children were reported missing nationally in 2016. Additionally, nearly one in six runaways were likely victims of sex trafficking. While children run away for a multitude of reasons; from severe abuse to not getting their way, one fact remains: these children are extremely vulnerable to predators looking to exploit them.
In 2017, the Arizona Missing Person Database received 7,224 reports of missing children in Arizona. As of December 7, 2017, over 1000 of those children are still missing. On the AZDPS website, the public will now be able to search and view basic information, including photos of these missing children in Arizona.
Law enforcement’s access to the webpage will be different than that of the public, allowing investigators to view additional information such as circumstances of the runaway incident, previous runaway incidents involving the child and information about victimization while in runaway status. This additional information will enhance investigators abilities to find these children sooner.
In addition to this database, AZDPS also leads a statewide training program called “Interdiction for the Protection of Children”. Since its inception in July of 2014, over 900 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, Department of Child Services employees and child advocates have been trained to identify indicators of an endangered child. Since 2014, troopers rescued over 110 missing, abducted, abused, endangered, exploited or trafficked children during traffic stops or targeted operations. In 2017 alone, troopers rescued 57 children. Of those rescues, nine were being trafficked or at risk of being trafficked, 29 were endangered runaways and seven were abducted. Additionally, in 2017, 14 adults were arrested on charges related to crimes against children.
Captain Jennifer Pinnow, who oversees the Missing Children Database and IPC program, said, “We are confident this webpage will enhance our ability to work together with the public to bring these children back to safety. We will also continue to train additional law enforcement and other professionals who work with children to identify endangered children.”
The Missing Children Search webpage can be found at https://www.azdps.gov/missingchildren